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Who will win the US election? China's campaign manufacturers think they have the answer

Updated: Sep 8, 2021

Four years ago, when most political pundits put their money on Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump, vendors in the Yiwu International Trade Market in Zhejiang province already knew that Trump would win. Orders of presidential election merchandise gave them the clue. Can Yiwu do it again this year?

The myth of “Yiwu Index”

Every election, huge volumes of campaign merchandise — flags, baseball caps, T-shirts, rubber wristbands, latex masks and so on — for various US presidential candidates are purchased from the small international trade city of Yiwu in central Zhejiang and exported to the US. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic this year, masks and other face coverings printed with the presidential candidates’ names and slogans were added to the lot.   

In the lead-up to the presidential election in 2016, American commentators generally thought that Hillary Clinton would win. Yiwu vendors, however, successfully predicted that it would be Trump who would have the last laugh based on campaign merchandise orders of both candidates. 

Following their accurate prediction, international pundits started to treat these orders as indicators of the US electoral situation. This method is not unfounded too — the stronger the financial resources of the candidates, the more campaign merchandise they can purchase; the more supporters they have, the better the sales of their campaign products.

According to statistics, as of 21 August, Trump raised a total of US$1.2 billion (roughly S$1.64 billion) while Biden raised a mere US$699 million. As such, Trump is investing much more in campaign merchandise than Biden.

‘Orders do not lie’

The identity of the next US president will be revealed In two weeks, but business owner Li Qingxiang from Yiwu, already knows who the victor will be.

Li owns a small shop of less than five square metres in Yiwu International Trade Market. She makes a prediction that even political pundits dare not make: “Of course Trump will win.”

Her conviction lies in a set of mysterious data surrounding the “Yiwu index”. Since the end of last year, her factory has produced over 100,000 banners of this kind, which are sold for 4.80 RMB (approximately S$0.95) apiece. On the other hand, only a mere few thousand banners of the same size for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden have been produced.   

She is thus very certain that Trump has a better chance of winning than his opponent Biden because “orders do not lie”. 

Yiwu a unique window to global dynamics

All large-scale events require props and materials. As the world’s largest small commodities wholesale factory, Yiwu has become a unique window to global dynamics.

While there is no rigorous scientific basis for predictions based on orders, international trends and changes in the commercial world have more than once been accurately transmitted to this city with a population of 1.3 million. What will happen next in Europe and the US? Ask the Yiwu vendors.

For instance, In late May this year, the death of a black man George Floyd at the hands of the police sparked several weeks of Black Lives Matter protests against racial injustice across the US and even Europe. Based on the huge amount of orders they received for masks printed with the words “Black Lives Matter”, the exporters in Yiwu knew that the demonstrations would drag on for some time. 

The predictions about the US election going around Yiwu may be just ideal talk, but "the world’s supermarket" is a genuine barometer for international trade and the global economy.

Before the pandemic, the Yiwu International Trade Market saw over 20,000 people a day. According to statistics, This largest market complex for small commodities in Yiwu attracts more than 500,000 foreign procurers who come here every year to develop their business. Yiwu also has over 14,000 foreign businessmen from more than 100 different countries who reside here.(Xinhua/Tan Jin)

In recent years, Yiwu City has actively responded to the Belt and Road initiative. Nine freight rail routes have been launched from Yiwu to Central Asia, London and Spain, influencing 34 countries and regions, covering about 2,000 kinds of commodities and hardware tools that are made in China.

May the best-selling cookie win?

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, owner of Lochel’s Bakery in Hatboro, says her campaign cookies have become a “viral” sensation with just two weeks until the 2020 general election.

Same as Yiwu manufactures, Bakery’s candidate cookies have accurately predicted the last 3 elections.

Hatboro bakery sells US election-themed cookies ahead of the final result. Customers and political parties have travelled from across the region to get their hands on the Trump and Biden cookies. The Hatboro confectionery has designated “four-inch sugar cookies” complete with icing, “jimmies” and an “edible image” for each candidate.The colors correspond with the nominee’s specific political parties: blue for “Biden 2020” and red for “Trump 2020.”

For the past three elections, bakery owner Lochel said the sugary sales have accurately predicted the presidential winner. Right now, the red cookies are in the lead.

“Donald Trump is winning in the cookie race right now,” said by Lochel. “In the past 24 hours, we’ve seen a lot more [Joe] Biden orders than we previously did. So I don’t know what the outcome will be.” The latest total Cookies Sold: Trump - 3,754 Biden - 1,602. Compare with the Yiwu index, as to who will prevail in cookie sales and votes, is it all a guess or a prediction?

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